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PART II. THE POWER OR EFFECTS OF FAITH IN THE REGULATION OF MAN’S INWARD NATURE.



CHAPTER SIXTEENTH.


ON THE RELATION BETWEEN QUIETNESS OF SPIRIT AND ENERGY OF ACTION.


Of a feeling of distrust, which exists in relation to quietness of spirit. Quietness of spirit, when properly understood, entirely consistent with true energy of action. Quietness, when resulting from Christian principle, necessarily involves energy. The doctrine, that quietness of spirit is consistent with energy of conduct, illustrated by personal and historical facts. References to Columbus, Washington, Howard. Wesley, Penn, and others. Evidence of its truth from the Scriptures.

ONE of the most interesting results of true faith, as we have had occasion to see in a former chapter, is meekness or quietness of spirit. It must be acknowledged, however, that there exists, to some extent, a secret feeling of distrust in relation to this trait of mind. A feeling which is probably somewhat enhanced by the tendency of the age, in which we live, to constant, vigorous, and almost turbulent movement. The precise shape of the feeling of distrust, to which we have reference, seems to be indicated by the proposition, in which it is usually embodied, namely, that meekness or quietness of spirit is inconsistent with an adequate degree of energy of action.

2.—In the last chapter we have seen, that faith embodies in itself elements, which lead to a course of action, such as may properly be regarded as truly energetic. The man of true faith acts, and must act, as God would have him act. God’s action, as a result to be brought out in its appropriate time, is necessarily embodied in God’s faith; the action which God requires in the faith which God gives. At the same time we feel justified in taking the position, that energy of action is entirely consistent with quietness of spirit. We wish it to be remembered, however, that in speaking of quietness of spirit, we mean that quietness and that only, of which faith is the foundation. The meek and quiet temper of mind, which is founded upon religious faith, is a very different thing from that mere inertness or stupidity of mind, which is sometimes found to exist in connection with physical and even moral causes. We wish it to be remembered also, that energy of action is not necessarily the same thing with violence of action. The violent and the energetic man are often confounded together; but in truth are quite distinct. The truly strong or energetic man is a strong man generally, as well as specifically; he is a strong man in all points; he has an internal foundation of strength, which gives strength to every thing. The violent man, on the contrary, is strong in some things, and weak in others; and the consequence is, that strength in a certain direction, being unrestrained and uncontrolled by strength in another direction, naturally becomes violence. So that violence is not strength, in the proper sense of the terms; is not
true strength, true energy; but may be regarded as strength unregulated, strength in convulsion, strength in a state of disease; which in reality is weakness, and oftentimes very marked and deplorable weakness.

3.—Keeping these preliminary remarks in mind, particularly the remark, that true quietness of spirit has its foundation in faith, we proceed to say, that quietness of spirit is not inconsistent with energy of action. On the contrary, we cannot hesitate to say, that the truth in this matter is found in nearly the reverse of this proposition. The fact is, that quietness of spirit is not only consistent with energy of action, but is favorable to it. And we may go further and say, that the highest energy of action cannot exist without quietness of spirit.

4.—We take the ground then, in the first place, that a truly meek and subdued temper of mind is consistent with energy of action, because this state of mind itself implies the existence of a secret or hidden energy. It is obvious, that there can be no true and abiding quietness of spirit without entire
self-control. But such self-control, which is one of the highest results of moral and religious discipline, implies the existence of a high degree of inward power. Quietness of spirit, therefore, when it results from Christian principle, is really a great exhibition of inward energy; an energy which is not obtrusive, and which may even be said to hide itself, but which really exists. The man, who is meek and quiet in spirit, because he has power by divine grace to command his spirit, is really a strong man. And the strength, which is exhibited in securing inward subjection, will exhibit itself on other occasions when they arise. The man, who can control his own spirit, is in the most favorable position, other things being equal, to regulate, modify, and control the spirits of other men. He is precisely the man, from whom great active or practical results may reasonably be expected.

5.—A multitude of instances, those of every day’s occurrence as well as those which are historical, go to confirm what has been said. And they confirm it in the natural life, as well as in the religious life. Among those, who have not experienced the renovating grace of God, or who have experienced it but in a very limited degree, the truly strong men are generally men, who maintain a subdued and quiet self-control. Faith, even if it be nothing more than natural faith, makes them strong; and strength makes them quiet and calm; and their calmness is both the incident and the proof of their strength. And much more is this the case, when religious faith is added to that which is natural. Mark the men in common life, the farmer, the mechanic, the day-laborer; and those who in their toils and their poverty are tried also in the furnace of affliction; and you will find true strength, only where you find a mind that is deliberate and calm. Observe the men, who are truly distinguished in courts of justice and in halls of legislation; and they will be found, with scarcely an exception, to be men that are deliberate, thoughtful, and calmly unimpassioned, except on those rare occasions, when the manifestation of strong emotions may become a duty.

6.—On certain occasions, not long since, I was favored with the opportunity of being present at the forensic efforts of a distinguished lawyer and statesman. I think on all these occasions, there was no one trait in his own character and action, which added more to the moral influence of his arguments, than the calm and dignified, the patient and self-possessed control of his own spirit. As, in the exercise of his great logical mastery, he forged together link after link and chain after chain, in his massive and impregnable argument, I could hardly decide in my own mind, whether those, who heard him, were most affected and wrought upon by the great beauty and strength of the work, or by the deliberative, self-controlled and passionless mind of the agent. I do not mean to say, that passion was not there; but only that it was not visible. “Its hour had not yet come.” But when, in any given part of the argument, the duty of the intellect was discharged, and the time came for the utterance of feeling; when the moment arrived, in which the demonstrations of logic, which placed the wrong-doer in his appropriate light, should be followed up by emotion, the moment of solemn reproof and just denunciation, then the same self-collected and inward mastery, the same measured enunciation, deliberate, self-possessed, deep-toned, as if unmoved justice ought still to hold the reins, gave tenfold energy to the burning words, which proclaimed the feelings of the heart. Uttered emphatically and strongly, it is true, but still appropriately and calmly, with strength of manner, but still with entire quietness of manner, they seemed to come from a mind above ordinary human minds, and to be terribly sublime and just, as if they had come from God himself, who judges and denounces justly, because he judges and denounces without any disturbing passion.

7.—History furnishes numerous illustrations. Christopher Columbus, if we have a right understanding of his personal character, was a man of a self-controlled and quiet spirit. The foundation of this subdued and immoveable calmness of spirit, which supported him under immense labors, deprivations, and sufferings, was faith, undoubtedly. And it is very possible, that it was, to a considerable degree at least, natural faith. That is to say, he had faith in his mathematical and geographical deductions; he had faith in his personal skill as a navigator; he had faith in his own physical and intellectual resources; he had faith in his personal influence over minds of less power; he had faith in his integrity of purpose. He felt, therefore, that he stood on a strong foundation; and this inward conviction, strengthened perhaps in some degree by religious sentiments, imparted both inwardly and outwardly that self-possessed and delightful calmness of spirit and manner, which is one of the surest indices of true greatness. No one will say, that Christopher Columbus was a man wanting in energy.

8.—George Washington is another instance. Washington was a man of few words, of deliberate movement, of passions subdued and kept firmly under control; but when he had once ascertained the course which truth and duty required him to pursue in a given case, he went calmly forward in its execution, with a fixedness and almost immutability of purpose, which, without being hasty or violent, constituted the highest energy. Saying nothing of the religious element, which we have no doubt existed in him strongly, he had faith in the justice of his cause; faith in himself; faith in the commanders and soldiers by whom he was surrounded; and faith in the general sentiment of the people, whom he represented. Standing on this strong basis, which was furnished in a considerable degree even by natural faith, he combined the greatest inflexibility and strength of purpose and action with the greatest calmness and dignity. Numerous other instances, in which we must suppose that natural faith chiefly predominated, such as that of Socrates, of Cincinnatus, of Aristides, Gustavus Vasa, Wellington, and many others in all the leading situations of life, illustrate this general view; and go to confirm the statement, that a self-possessed and quiet manner, a manner which may be said to conceal the mighty power which lies beneath it, is entirely consistent with the greatest energy of action.

9.—Instances of this kind illustrate this subject on natural, as much or more, than on religious principles. The men of the world understand it. In great emergencies they consider it indispensable to obtain leaders that are self-controlled. It is sometimes the case, in the convulsions to which society is subject, that we hear among them the proposition and the demand for violent agitation; but it is worthy of notice, that they always regard it as a necessary preliminary of success, that he, who takes the lead in this agitation, the man, who agitates others, must himself be
above agitation. They know well, that it is exceedingly dangerous to raise the civil and political elements, without a power in the leading agent to regulate and control them. They know too, that the highest kind of power, that alone which is adequate to such an emergency, is found in those only who can perfectly control themselves.

10.—We proceed to remark further, that the religiously strong men, as well as the naturally strong men, in all ages of the world, and in a still higher degree, have been quiet men; that is to say, have been men, who have been characterized in their lives and actions by a deliberate and meek spirit. Mr. Wesley, whom God in his providence raised up and constituted the head of a new and efficient ecclesiastical organization, was such a man. Called to act in a great variety of emergencies, to preach to the ignorant and the poor, to meet the learned in exciting controversies, to deal with men of all traits of disposition, to lay the foundation of a new and great religious movement, in the midst of labors, hazards, and perplexities, scarcely exceeded by those of the great Apostle himself, he was every where characterized by a subdued and thoughtful equanimity, which only added beauty to the vast energy of his purpose and action.

11.—Take again the case of a person, called to action under very different circumstances, that of the justly celebrated Howard, the distinguished philanthropist. A person, coming into the presence of that remarkable man, would hardly suppose that beneath that simple and childlike exterior, characterized by hardly less than woman’s gentleness, there lodged a sacred
determination, strong as if God himself were embodied in it, (as it seems to me that he was,) which led him forth from country to country, from prison to prison, amid exposure and fatigue, amid diversities of men, and varieties of climate, till he fell a glorious martyr to a purpose, which might fail of being accomplished, but in a heart like his could never be relinquished.

12.—The views which have been expressed, apply also, in a remarkable degree, to William Penn. Penn, whose name has acquired a great historical interest, was a truly meek, peaceable, quiet man. This would naturally be supposed from the nature of the mild and pacific principles, which his eloquent writings have illustrated. But he was not a weak man, he was not an undecided man, he was not an idle man. Far from it. His life was a life of exposure, of toil, of persecution, of suffering. The author of the “No Cross, No Crown,” a work which bears evidence of being written from the impulses of his own heart, could not well be a man, who would shrink from suffering or grow weary in well-doing. The noble State of Pennsylvania, founded in principles which the world had never before seen reduced to practice, is a living and perpetual monument, that meekness of temper is consistent with greatness of conception, and that quietness of spirit is not at variance with sublime energy of action.

13.—The laws of true religious experience are always the same; and always productive of the same results. And if such are the results in the case of the Methodist and the Quaker, they will be found to be the same in the Catholic, the Episcopalian, and the Congregationalist. And we may add the names of Fenelon, Leighton, and Edwards to those of Penn and Wesley, (and we know not how many others of other denominations of Christians,) as illustrative of a life of unceasing action, beautified by a divine serenity and tranquility of spirit.

14.—But passing over many instances, in the history of the church and the world, of those who possessed religion and of those who did not possess it, or who possessed it in a much less degree, we proceed to say, that the strong men of the Scriptures were quiet men; not inactive, but quiet; men that had rest in God. Their minds were not agitated and vascillating; as minds are apt to be which are not bound to God by the strong links of faith and love; but were fixed to some great purpose. One of the most striking instances is that of Abraham. There is not a fact mentioned in relation to Abraham, not a circumstance described, which necessarily indicates any thing different from quietness of spirit. His soul, patient and self-possessed, had rest in God, because it had faith in God; it was quiet in God, because it had confidence that God would protect it. But who was more decided in action, who more energetic in the discharge of any duty to which his heavenly Father called him? Without speaking of Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Daniel, Paul, John, and others, men who embodied great strength of purpose in great humility and believing quietness of spirit, may we not, in this connection, mention without irreverence the blessed Savior himself. Certain it is, that the great purpose of his life, his indomitable will, was fixed immovably in one direction—unchangeable as the throne of God. That will never altered. From that purpose he never changed. And yet he always exhibited the meekness, the simplicity, the gentleness of a little child.

15.—Such instances seem to us to establish our position. Quiet men, other things being equal, are the truly strong men. Especially is this true of those, whose equanimity or rest of spirit is founded in religious faith. Strong faith makes strong action; but it is action without noise, without violence, without inconsistencies. So far from a quiet and self-possessed spirit being unfavorable to energy of action, we do not hesitate to say, that those persons are unfitted for great enterprises requiring energy of action, who are destitute of this trait. The true element of power is either wanting in such men, or is rendered unavailable by not being kept in its right position.